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UNC Program in Translational Medicine awarded $700,000 HHMI grant

The Graduate Training Program in Translational Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been awarded a four-year, $700,000 “Med into Grad” renewal grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Media contact: Tom Hughes, (919) 966-6047, tahughes@unch.unc.edu

Monday, Nov. 30, 2009

CHAPEL HILL – The Graduate Training Program in Translational Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been awarded a four-year, $700,000 “Med into Grad” renewal grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The HHMI Med into Grad initiative encourages graduate schools to integrate medical knowledge and an understanding of clinical practice into their biomedical Ph.D. programs. It is part of a long-term effort by HHMI to increase the number of researchers who are able to turn basic science discoveries into improved treatments for patients. “It is important for Ph.D. biomedical scientists to gain an understanding of the real life medical problems faced by physicians in practice,” said William Galey, director of HHMI's graduate education and medical research training programs. “Too few biomedical scientists appreciate how their research can help change the practice of medicine or public health.” 

The UNC School of Medicine is one of 23 schools nationwide selected to receive up to $700,000 over four years to develop a program that brings clinical medicine into the graduate school curriculum.

UNC’s Program in Translational Medicine was started in 2006 with a $800,000, 4-year, Med into Grad grant from HHMI. UNC was one of only 13 universities nation-wide who received HHMI funding to implement this type of unique and innovative training program, and is one of 11 to earn a renewal. UNC’s first group of trainees in 2006 totaled four students.  Since then the program has grown to include 28 trainees representing 9 different departments.

“The goal of our program is to train these rising Ph.D. researchers to be able to interact effectively with medical doctors who also do patient-based research so that discoveries at the bench can be translated seamlessly into new and improved therapies at the bedside,” said Patrick Brandt, Ph.D., UNC’s program coordinator.

“A major component of the training program is that the Ph.D. students are paired with a clinical co-mentor in addition to their basic science mentor.  The clinical co-mentor helps guide the trainee's research and gives them exposure to the clinic where they can learn about interacting with patients, and where they also learn the language and culture of the clinic,” Brandt said.

James M. Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology, is the current principal investigator of the grant and director of the Program in Translational medicine.  William B. Coleman, Ph.D., professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, is co-director. Starting with the new funding cycle, which begins in March 2010, Virginia Miller, Ph.D., professor of genetics and assistant dean in the School of Medicine’s Office of Graduate Education, will be the program director, with Anderson and Coleman as co-directors.

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